Billionaire businessman Mike Ashley has been revealed as the biggest employer to use the “zero hour” contracts that potentially prevent 20,000 part-time staff at his retail empire from taking a second job.
Described as exploitative by MPs, the soon-to-be illegal policy means 90 per cent of workers at his Sports Direct stores have no guaranteed working hours and must seek permission from management to work elsewhere.
The revelation comes a year after senior management at Sports Direct took share option bonuses worth three times their pay with Ashley’s personal fortune estimated at £3.75 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
The Government is seeking to ban such working conditions and ministers estimate some 125,000 workers will benefit.
This means Sports Direct staff account for almost one in six of the entire workforce the Government wants to help.
A copy of a 2012 contract seen by The Independent newspaper says: “If you wish to undertake any work outside the company, whether paid or unpaid, you should raise the matter with your manager…
“…It may be decided that the additional work would conflict with your duties at Sports Direct.com Retail Limited. You would then be prevented from taking it up.”
It is understood this clause remains in current contracts and does not give minimum guaranteed working hours.
Campaigners have described the wording as an “exclusivity” clause although it is not known whether Sports Direct enforce the rule.
Belinda Turffrey, from at campaign group 38 Degrees, told The Independent: “This looks like exclusivity in all but name.
“Many people on zero hours contracts will be worried about the consequences of asking for permission to work somewhere else, while others run the risk of being turned down entirely.”
Zero hours contracts have been widely criticised because the lack of guaranteed hours leave workers struggling to get mortgages, credit cards or rental agreements.
Sports Direct, based at Shirebrook in Derbyshire, will be forced to defend its record at an employment tribunal bought by an ex-worker later this year.